The numbers are so staggering that Northeastern women’s hockey coach Dave Flint can understand if some opponents find themselves overwhelmed by the mere thought of facing goalie Aerin Frankel before their skates even hit the ice.
Frankel’s 1.06 goals-against average is the best in Women’s Hockey East by a landslide, and so is her 20-3-1 record. Her off-the-charts .959 save percentage leads the nation, so do her eight shutouts. And with 1,416 minutes logged, no goalie in the conference is between the pipes as often as she is.
“If you look at her numbers, those in itself are intimidating,” Flint said. “If I’m an opposing coach or team, I’m looking at the numbers going, ‘Geez, we’re going to have to work to get a goal.’ ”
It gets worse when you watch the video. Glove, pad or stick, point-blank range, long distance or in a crowd, she’s a wall with very few cracks.
“There’s a lot of times teams think they have her down and out and they’ve got an easy goal,” Flint said. “Then all of a sudden, she’s throws a pad out, or a glove out, or a shoulder or whatever, and comes up with an amazing save.”
It happened a few times last week when the Huskies pulled out a 3-2 win over Connecticut.
“We probably had no right winning the game,” Flint said. “But she came up with a couple of ridiculous saves and gave us that chance to win.”
That win clinched Northeastern’s second straight Women’s Hockey East regular-season title.
But as Northeastern (23-3-1), ranked No. 3 in the US College Hockey Online poll, prepares for its Beanpot matchup Tuesday against Harvard, Frankel’s focus isn’t on the numbers.
“You run into trouble when you’re constantly following numbers,” she said. “You do better when you’re just playing free and having fun.”
She’s also less focused about how imposing her presence can be and more on how frightening the Huskies have been as a whole this season.
“I think our team, in general, is kind of an intimidating opponent,” Frankel said. “We haven’t lost a lot of games this year and we’re a high-scoring team. So I think we’re a lot of opposing goalies worst nightmare because we put up a lot of goals. I think we have a pretty complete group. So I think that, in itself, is pretty intimidating.”
Coming into the Beanpot, the Huskies have rattled off eight straight wins. The first five of those came by a combined score of 20-0, with Frankel stringing together five shutouts over that stretch. Flint’s seen Frankel make the impossible look possible, the extraordinary look ordinary so many times, he’s starting to become accustomed to it.
“It’s almost like she makes a highlight save now and I almost don’t get as excited anymore,” Frankel said. “It’s just like, ‘Oh, that’s just another Aerin save.’ ”
In his 12 years at Northeastern, Flint has been spoiled with talented goalies.
“I’ve been lucky,” he said. “There’s been a pipeline of really good goalies at Northeastern and Aerin is definitely one of those special ones.”
A goalie himself at North Adams State in the 1990s and also a goaltending coach for the US National team that won a gold medal in the 2008 World Championship and silver in the 2010 Olympics, Flint immediately saw the potential in Frankel when she was in high school in Chappaqua, N.Y.
“Even though I was a tall goalie, I like to think that I was pretty athletic,” Flint said. “I just love [her] athleticism and the way she competes. When I was a goalie, I hated to get scored on. Hated it. I loved the fact that I have the ability to win a game by my play and I think she has that same mind-set. She goes in every game like, ‘I can make a big difference in the outcome of this game.’ ”
She also had the hockey pedigree, having played at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School, a pipeline for the University of Minnesota, after having transferred there from Horace Greeley High. But Flint had no idea Frankel’s ceiling would be this high.
“If you look at Aerin, she’s an undersized goalie, so a lot of people weren’t willing to take a chance on her,” Flint said of his dynamic 5-foot-5-inch junior. “The thing about her was how hard she competes and how athletic she is.”
When Frankel got to Northeastern, her competitive nature was undeniable.
“You just watch her in practice and her approach and how she competes,” Flint said, “She hates to get scored on. Every time she’s given an opportunity, she does well.”
Ultimately, that approach pushed her into the starting spot by the end of her freshman season. Her breakthrough came in a 3-2 win over Wisconsin, the nation’s top-ranked team at the time. She racked up 39 saves in what would be her coming-out party.
“She hasn’t looked back,” Flint said. “If you had asked me two years ago would she be this good, I wouldn’t have had an answer for you . . . Goaltending is 90 percent confidence. She’s seeing the puck real well right now. She’s making a lot of big saves, so that helps you feel really good. That’s the important part. When your goalie feels good, and they’re playing well, that’s a good feeling.”
With Frankel as the backbone of their defense, the Huskies have a chance to win their third straight conference championship and reach the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year.
But for Frankel, each game, each period, each shot is precious.
The Beanpot is an opportunity in itself, knowing the Huskies have gone 0-4 in the the tournament since 2018.
“I think we kind of have a chip on our shoulder going into it this year,” she said. “We’re really good this year, we were really good last year, but we still didn’t win a game. We’ve got to take it really seriously. I think we’re going to do really well this year.
“We might not win the Beanpot, but I think we can at least be happy with the way we played because we’re prepared.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.